It was the Roman military strategist Vegetius (odd name for a military strategist) who remarkably observed, Si vis pacem, para bellum. Roughly translated into English, it means, “If you wish for peace, prepare for war”. The fundamental assumption being that a capability of waging costly war of retaliation is the only way to prevent an unprovoked bloodshed triggered by naked aggression. The only problem with the strategy is that, like ambition, paranoia is limitless. A successful adoption of such paranoid strategy by two competing entities would provoke an irreversible legacy of hostilities and arm race. The legacy of “cold war” is just too recent to forget.

But the very fact that memory of bloodshed is painful for most humans do not deter humans from engaging in war. One may imagine the scale of regular violence among multiple group of humans at the dawn of arrival of Homo Sapiens and can feel disgust at narrow tribalism of our ancestors, but one can not fail to notice that the arrival of civilizations provided violent men more excuse for waging war on others. This somewhat makes me skeptical of the claim of equivalence between civilization and enlightenment. However, civilization brought something that our tribal ancestors lacked: war strategy.

It is the war strategy that adds an intellectual dimension to the somewhat boring and mindless violence. It also created a necessary prerequisite for a mighty general that he/she must be adept at creating strategies and tactics that will win them war. So we can start from Sri Rama’s building of bridge (thereby successfully countering the belief that Lanka can not be attacked) to the idea of Trojan Horse (because Troy’s mighty walls could not be breached) to Alexander’s invasion of Tyre to Cyrus the Great’s routing of a river to attack a castle, we see the adoption of out-of-box thinking that pushes the leaders from their comfort zone to the challenges of terra incognito.

It is necessary to understand that successful war strategies, like successful corporate or marketing strategies, can not be applied for ever. Once good strategies get implemented, rivals make note of it and then it becomes necessary to evolve the war strategies. Each successful generals had to evolve their own strategies, but it was Napoleon Bonaparte who attempted a brilliant strategy which deserves to be mentioned here. According to Historian de Bourrienne who writes in Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, Volume 1 about his strategy that while he himself only wanted conquest through war he made earnest effort to keep peace with other neighbors while attacking one single neighbor. In other words, initiatives to build peace became a cunning strategy to prepare for war.

This strategy yielded rich dividend for every military/political strategist from Bismark to Hitler.. But it delivered incalculable harm to the efforts of those noble souls who are serious about world peace. Just like emperor Ashoka sought inner peace after a bloody Kalinga war, the idea of a peaceful world enforced by a group of super powers gained some traction after a bloody first world war and eventually resurrected an obscure organization called “League of Nations” as “United Nations”. The super powers – USA, UK and former USSR – soon took a page from Napolean’s war manual and used UN promoted peace initiatives as covert efforts to expand their soft power. This desperate attempts to maintain peace created an war of subversion we call “cold war”. The by-products of this long cold war were disastrous Stalinist rule in Russia and paranoid McCarthyism in America.

So, when in beginning of nineties, the unsustainable iron curtain of USSR dropped, many hoped that it would be the beginning of new era of peace in an unipolar world. But some other dices are already rolled by then. In a desperate bid to stall Soviet expansion in the last phase of communist empire, USA evolved a war strategy which succeeded in prompting foreigners to do America’s bidding. It was a smart strategy but Americans could not follow it through. Had they paid attention to South East Asia, they would have learned from the fate of a man named Rajiv Gandhi who tried to use the same strategy to teach a lesson to a neighbor for their hostility during 1971 war.

The defeat of Soviet power at the hand of mostly under-trained warriors led some Afghan warlords and religious leaders in to conclude that they can demand an increasingly bigger piece of geopolitics pie. The delusion looked like it was grounded in reality specially when a oil-soaked wealth can provide an air-support of smart diplomacy. At the conceptual level, this was not a complex idea, but it was Pakistan’s leadership which perfected the implementation. In a sense, this was a solution to a problem that Pakistani leadership was struggling with. After the disastrous loss of face in 1971 war, Pakistan’s political/military elite was looking for a way to get back to their bete noire, India. But the problem was that the scale of loss during ’71 war convinced the planners of Pakistan side that a conventional war with India can not be won by themselves alone.

Terrorism itself is a strategy of war. During last century, western nations refined the ideals of nationhood and border and then demarcated as peace and war zones respectively. Correspondingly, they deployed their army in their border and used international clout to hold conventions like Geneva conventions to establish dos and donts of war. In this single minded pursuit of peace or “capability of retaliation”, they took military technology to a new level. Terrorism is that strategy that tried to hit at the places that were within the nation’s borders and therefore, most vulnerable. Predictably, western politicians and bureaucrats are disgusted with this strategy and, instead of devising a counter strategy, they are riding high horse of moral or just war. History at the subcontinent holds important lessons for them. During the early phase of Turkish imperialism, Turkish warlords perfected the idea of engaging their enemy in short war and if the might of the enemy is too overwhelming then running away from it to come back later. The brilliance of the idea lies in the fact that no matter how mighty an enemy is, they can not keep their guard on all the time. When Rajputs faced this war strategy, they refused to pursue the running enemy since that would constitute violation of Khatriya code of honor. We all know about the long term consequences of riding this moral high horse. But I digress.

Pakistan began to deploy their strategy both in the east and west side of the border at the same time. While revenge was the ultimate motive in the eastern border, a successful completion of their adventure in Afghanistan had an economic impact. A group of central Asian Republics exist at the border of Afghanistan. Each of these states store a treasure of oil and natural gas and energy hungry world needs them. But the republics themselves are land locked and closer ports belong to either Russia or Iran. Both of these nations are not in good terms with West even today and alternative route must pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan had the dream of becoming Saudi Arabia of natural gas distribution with the help of energy companies like Bridas and Unocal. The only entity that stood between this dream and reality is an independent government at Kabul.

Compared to India’s situation, Punjabi elites at the top of Pakistan’s affairs understood Afghan societies better. A mix of tribal seniors and religious leaders run the affairs at the country and a western style central government did not have much capacity to enforce it’s writ. Bribing the members of “loya Jirga” (council of tribal elders) and providing sops to Madrassas ran by religious leaders helped Pakistani leadership to promote an armed militia composed of teen-aged students from various Madrassa and their teachers. The effort worked partially because the smart Pakistani generals convinced a sympathetic Clinton Administration and energy companies that, if funded properly, ISI could use the armed militia to establish stability in the region. Resulting game of intrigue, betrayal and bloodshed turned into something that noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rahid called New Great Game.

India, on the other hand, was a different game. Kashmir was the testing ground always. Heat of unconventional war is baking the people of Kasmir valley for a long time. But soon it emerged that the extra ordinary torture was not enough to convince the rest of the India that Kashmir valley is a liability. For this, an idea needs to be implanted in Indian mind. In other words, Kashmir issue must be unlinked from pure geopolitical concerns and a narrative based on human rights and fair treatment must be built so that it can appeal to the unsuspecting mind.

Enter the left. Ever since the fall of USSR and Chinese betrayal, left were a bit unsure about their clout. For the men and women who mostly lived under the large university campuses or taxpayer funded think tanks/government committees, the only skill that comes naturally is to use words effectively. A lot of them, be it oriental or occidental, has long learned the skill of covering their agenda with the smooth plasma of concern for human rights and pain for suffering of the poor. It works well because left politics centers around politics of guilt for a long time and therefore, monopolization of human rights activism is the empire that left owns permanently.

So when Pakistani leadership came to shop for the intellectual mercenaries, left just did not see a client, but an enthusiastic partner. How do left reconcile religious extremism, local conflict and their own ideology together? The answer lies with the coalition of international left and their alliance with Islamists. For example, French left leader Olivier Besanconneau tried to justify 9/11 by questioning, “Are these not the new slaves?”. The word “these” point to Muslim immigrants in America and Europe.

Since a direct payment of money may not be appreciated by many intellectuals (for, after all, they could not get rid of hypocrisy that is such an epidemic in our society), rewards were paid in the form of patronization and other parks. The recent arrest of Ghulam Nabi Fai bared the connections in the open. The arrested individual was well known for inviting Indian intellectuals. In case one is wondering if all of them are left-liberal or not, one should remember that in India no-one is intellectual if they are not part of the clan of left-liberals.

These intellectuals used their clout in media and academia to create an environment that may convince their appreciative readership that it would be a great sin to “occupy” Kashmir. The western cousins gleefully provided support. For example, Noam Chomsky tried to make India an invader by mentioning Kashmir “occupation” as a fact in an article that has nothing to do with this. Apparently, the brotherhood of intellectuals work very smoothly.

What lies ahead? Intellectuals and “civil society” will do what they are supposed to do. They may criticize consumption of a “selfish middle class” but hell, who wants to travel in “cattle class” public transportation instead of a cozy car? Bereft of any real skill that can add value to the society, roles of being intellectual mercenaries are the most lucrative enterprise they can aspire to. What about the rest i.e. “civilized society”? We have to keep the vigilance. If history taught us anything then we should know that war strategies must evolve to be successful. We must evolve our own strategy if we dont want to wait and risk defeat.

(Image Courtesy-

The following two tabs change content below.

Siddhartha Chatterjee

Latest posts by Siddhartha Chatterjee (see all)